Tuesday, September 15, 2009

0-1: Giants 23, Redskins 17

First, a rant on the offensive gameplan:

Zorn’s play-calling was baffling. Remember that in my game preview I suggested that the quick passing game was the key to attacking the Giants defense. If that was successful we could pull the linebackers out of the running lanes so Portis could gain some yards. Then, and only then, might we be able to set up some deep passes.
Instead, the gameplan couldn’t have been scripted any better to play directly to the Giants’ strengths. Zorn reverted to 1980s NFC East football. Just like last years’ opener, Portis was constantly hurled against a brick wall. The line and linebackers had no short passing threat to work with so they aggressively shot the gaps with impunity. For some reason it was insisted upon that the passing game would be based upon deep balls, and Zorn acted surprised when the best defensive line in football was able to generate consistent pressure while Campbell was doing almost entirely seven-step drops. They’re the Giants, Coach, that’s what they do.
It wasn’t until the 3rd quarter that I even saw Fred Davis on the field, and I don’t believe he was even targeted with a single pass. Where were the quick slants, flat routes, and other short passes to our playmaking tight ends to make those linebackers pay for their aggressiveness? This is supposedly a West Coast offense – it should be built around the short pass, especially when the opposing defense is perfectly designed to counter the other options. I am generally prone to defend Zorn, and the general ethos of this blog indicates this should be dismissed as a bad day’s work and we should withhold radical judgment until we’re a bit deeper into the season, but he earned a bit of a beating for this one.

Some other observations:

Chris Samuels may have been blocking Osi Umenyiora on that fumble that was returned for a touchdown, but it was not in any way his fault. Samuels did his job and carried Umenyiora way upfield, but Campbell somehow lacked the presence to step up into what was still a very nice pocket. He also broke one of Zorn’s cardinal rules and dropped the ball back down, which allowed it to be easily swiped out. However, ultimate responsibility lies with Zorn for calling nothing but deep passes and seven step drops against the most dominant pass rush in the NFC.
Not just Samuels - on the whole I think the offensive line held their own against the league's best D-line. That's pretty satisfactory for a unit that's supposed to be the Redskins' biggest weakness.

Clinton Portis’ 34 yard run on the Redskins’ first offensive play was sprung by the downfield blocking of Chris Cooley and Malcolm Kelly.

The punt on that opening possession was perfectly placed. It bounced up from the 2 yard line, and if Byron Westbrook had simply stood and waited for it to fall in his hands, rather than make an ill-timed leap for it, we would have had the Giants up against their own goal line. No telling how that shift in field position would have changed the character of the first half.

D’Anthony Batiste was inactive, so Mike Williams really is the next man up at tackle. I’m going to lose sleep over this.

One of the few encouraging things on offense was that Randle-El showed that he is, in fact, still quite a dangerous receiver when running out of the slot. With the defense occupied with Santana Moss, Randle-El was able to exploit the slower players in zone defense over the middle. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work.

Santana Moss and Malcolm Kelly were both invisible all game. Moss was obviously the focus of the Giants offense. I’m not sure if Kelly’s lack of production was his fault or a result of the fact that the outside receivers spent all day running slow-developing routes on seven stop drops (have I mentioned that?), so I’m withholding judgment on him for now.

Greg Blache wasn’t innocent in the game planning department either. If given a comfortable pocket, Eli Manning is good enough to pick apart a defense. We spent most of the game giving a four man rush against a very good offensive line, and unsurprisingly were rarely able to quite get there. Eli picked apart our soft coverage while rarely having to worry about evading a blitzer.

Renaldo Wynn was also inactive. A younger man could be deactivated on game days and still provide something to develop for the future.

Brandon Jacobs averaged 2.9 yards per carry. That wasn’t all Haynesworth, but he was a big part of it despite his lack of splashy plays.

On the whole, I think the Giants O-line and the Redskins D-line played eachother to a draw. Given that this was a very good offensive line, I find no shame in that. But Eli Manning was playing efficiently, and the lack of blitzes allowed him to keep drives alive.

So where does this leave us? The Redskins were the underdog in this game, so taking a loss here is not altogether unexpected. But obviously, the way we lost is somewhat distressing. Predicably, half of Washington is already calling to bench Campbell, fire Zorn, and all the rest, but let’s remember that at the end of the day the Redskins lost to a legitimate Super Bowl contender by seven points. On the road.

I would like to revisit a couple of points from my earlier post in which I broke down the schedule and predicted a record (9-7, by the way):

First, I picked 2-4 as a reasonable division record given the strength of the NFC East. So losing a game to the best team in that division is not only not devastating, but really should be taken in stride (Believe me, I know that’s easier said than done).

Second, I also pointed out that after week 1 the Redskins have an extraordinarily easy schedule for the rest of the first half of the season. The next five opponents are the Rams, Lions, Buccaneers, Panthers, and Chiefs. All but the Panthers were in the “Winnable Games” section from the schedule post, and based on Jake Delhomme’s week 1 performance it looks like they might be joining the club. Unless the Redskins are truly awful (they aren’t), we will be racking up some wins in the weeks ahead. Hopefully this stretch will give us time to iron out the wrinkles before facing the sheer brutality that is the second half of the schedule.

In all seriousness, week 1 performance can almost never be taken as a certain indicator of the true quality of a team. If the Redskins struggle mightily against the Rams and Lions we should be worried. But for now, despite the fact that there are many very legitimate criticisms of Sunday’s performance, it is far too early write off what I believe will be a pretty decent, though not great, team.
Below are some game wrap-ups from other Redskins blogs:
Redskins Confidential names Week 1 Studs and Duds. Guess which list Jim Zorn's playcalling made.
The Curly R is somewhat less than thrilled with Campbell, the receivers, and the DBs.
Hog Heaven does a pretty good job of keeping it medium, and uses the game to point out the noticeable contrast in the way the Redskins' and Giants' front offices conduct their business.
Kevin E at Hogs Haven is flirting with joining the pitchfork crowd, but at least he has rational reasons for it. His blogmate Sugar is a bit more optimistic, but is clearly aware of the deficiencies that were on display.
Warpath Confidential has a good collection of quotes from some despondent Redskins.
Mr. Irrelevant has the Redskins' winners and losers.

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